josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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2 Jan '02 05:55:21 AM

ILM had been inundated with lists lately, but I like the point to this one from Jess. I tried one of my own; like all my lists it seems kind of boring to me.

I do find this list interesting in one way, though, and that's that I'm not that uncomfortable with choosing these songs as "life-affirming." I don't like that phrase, probably because it's usually used to disparage music that I love as somehow being inimical to life affirmation (that would mean that it denies life, I guess, but putting it that way should just make it even more clear what a stupid way of talking that is - this is music that people make and love, dammit). So maybe I'm offering the list ironically, or ultrasubjectively, although I think people would tend to agree that a lot of these are life-affirming in the conventional sense. Whatever. They are my-life-affirming, is the key thing. And most, but not all of them, I took notice of especially in the past year.

Of course, I've known about some, like "Back and Forth," for plenty of time. Even then I was treating it sort of ritually, accorded the kind of respect deserved by something that makes me so happy and gives me so much hope. I remember a time earlier this fall, which I unfortunately didn't write about, when I was walking home at night from the first time I had been out walking and exploring in St. Paul. I chose to listen to Emergency & I not really out of any definite plan to affirm life or anything like that, but hearing it, especially the ending sequence starting with "You Are Invited" and ending with "Back and Forth," I realized that I was probably starting to use it sort of ritualistically for that, in a very loose sense. I mean, often I'll just put it on to hear it or feel good, but I could tell that it had begun to have more deliberate uses too, deliberate and also backed by a small and growing personal tradition.

Of these other pieces of music, maybe "Eclipse" and "Get Up" are closest to "Back and Forth" in the above way. There are family resemblances between all of them, so that I don't treat everything on the list the same way, but there are some songs I treat similarly to others, some which I treat more ceremonially, if you will, others which just make me feel good.

1 Jan '02 10:30:58 PM

On tracks like Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose James Brown sounds overwhelmed by the band. I don't mean just that they're a lot louder than him. On studio recordings from around this time, he's in control. Here, it doesn't sound like the band is following him. Everything is frantically keeping up with the groove that the band as a whole is setting.

1 Jan '02 10:04:10 PM

Technically I don't think Jess's project need present him with many difficulties - he's always writing about old records anyway - but maybe making the cutoff 1984 will force him into thinking things he wouldn't normally write about. I certainly wouldn't want to try it!

1 Jan '02 06:25:24 AM

First song played this year: "Here Comes the Sun", followed by "Because" which I have been repeating since then. I saw "Because" mentioned in a magazine and really wanted to hear it, and when I sat down at the CD player, hearing "Here Comes the Sun" sounded like a really good idea, too.

"Because" I wanted to hear mostly because I re-watched American Beauty last week and there's a beautiful remake of the song over the closing credits. The original doesn't have the same sacred feeling of that remake, but it's still doing it for me right now. It's a weird song - all intro.

31 Dec '01 09:31:28 PM

I'm glad to see that Mel has started a music writing site, and even more glad that it's very good.

31 Dec '01 09:27:28 PM

The first track on Not for Nothin' really sounds like it ends 5 minutes in, then starts again. I haven't yet paid enough attention to notice how they get around this interesting problem, if it even is one.

31 Dec '01 09:12:04 PM

I wonder if Coltrane started using so many slow codas (often combined with slow entrances) because they acted as a cadencing device with all the modal or otherwise not-normally-resolving midsections.

31 Dec '01 08:56:37 PM

Current megamix:

Mystikal, Tarantula. I think I heard him being sensitive in the midst of all the howling and grunting. Awww.

John Coltrane, Stellar Regions. The first time it came on, after the Holland, it kind of scared me, but only because it was loud. Really. I still can't get over how beautiful this is despite the way it sound.

Dave Holland, Not for Nothin'. I don't hear Billy Kilson doing as much direct drum-n-bass borrowing as on Prime Directive (not that that album was overrun with it), but it does pop up here and there during parts, which makes me think that he's just integrated those rhythmic ideas (ooh, what a five dollar phrase) into his playing more thoroughly.

Prefuse 73, Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives. A Christmas gift from Dave! The CD here I am the least familiar with so far, and that doesn't help since it's been a curious listen so far. I was expecting more hip-hop, I guess, or at least hip-hop that sounds less like "downtempo" (ha, take that Ethan). I did catch myself enjoying what I took to be a boring track earlier though, so this one bears listening (as with most things I first hear).

Erik Truffaz, The Mask. A compliation, which means that there's more traditional trumpet-drums-piano-bass small group post-bop, as well as something in between with the pianist on Fender Rhodes (and tending toward very guitary sounds, so maybe he plays a Clavinet too or something, but I didn't think he did) and the band playing something more like early Miles proto-fusion. And also of course what Truffaz is known for, a live band playing drum-n-bass-meets-jazz. Based on Revisite I wasn't expecting to be that impressed, but so far I've liked it quite a bit. I think those who criticize Truffaz for apeing Miles too much, and also for just sort of blankly playing his long tones over the rhythm section without interacting, may have some point, but I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to care when the band is playing some really right drum-n-bass and Truffaz seems to be filling his role quite well in that respect. Maybe the band is open to criticisms of not putting enough jazz into things, I'm not sure. The music feels a lot more electric to me, probably because of the tiny variations perceptible that are due to the band playing live. I'll have to think about it some more.

30 Dec '01 06:49:57 AM

One of my favorite records of the year was Since I Left You by the Avalanches. (Technically it's older, but it wasn't released in the States until 2001.)

Consider these notes for an essay I'll probably never finish.

I think that Tim got a lot right, especially about the sounds on the album, but his talk in the review and especially elsewhere, as well as that of plenty of other people, seems to make the album out to be an idyllic, sugary-sweet somethingorother, the kind of thing most appropriate for soundtracking endless fun-filled summer nights. I think Tim has even said something about how he listened to it every day in the summer (Australia's summer) and hasn't picked it up since.

Maybe it's that I got the album this fall, then, but I doubt that; it's more likely that my reaction has more to do with me than the season. I get a much more wistful, mournful feeling from the album than a lot of the people whose reactions I've read have seemed to.

It has a lot to do with memories. Not my memories specifically, but memories in general. Of course, because of my interest in memories (sorry to link to that again and again but it's my favorite example of this sort of thing), I'm more than a little prone to find them everywhere. This doesn't make what I've heard any less potentially interesting.

Partly it's the samples. Not just these samples. I get the impression of age, something from the past, from lots of music that involves sampling. Some of this is obviously due to the vinyl sources, sometimes deliberately grainy or scratchy; not always, though. I think more often it just has to do with the way the sample is marked off as being from somewhere else: through its repeating, or the musical cues that indicate it comes from a larger context which has a different musical logic than the song where the sample is used.

The way samples often repeat when they form the backbone of a song makes them reminiscent of memories for me because of the way they seem cut off, fragmentary - just the one little bit that I can get hold of, coming back over and over again, because that's all that comes; the rest doesn't follow once the fragment enters my mind. Sometimes I rehearse a memory, re-play it, and sometimes I can't help its coming back. This kind of sample is all over Since I Left You - they form its foundation, even.

A lot is made of how the record's songs segue into one another, in a more or less continuous mix. Sometimes this is because the adjacent tracks have a lot to do with one another, and sometimes it seems more like the gaps are filled in by some more stuff, if you will. Either way, this makes the music drift. Lots of music drifts, and maybe the connections I'm drawing work for that music too, but because of all the connections to memories that I hear here, the drift makes the music resemble the kind of logic of memories (or dreams!) where one memory leads to another, lazily, by association, with whatever it takes to connect the two.

All this doesn't yet sound as down in mood as maybe I originally indicated. I'm not totally sure how it all adds up. Obviously just the associations with memory are, for me, sort of sad. I think this has something to do, in a way I'm not prepared to go into at the moment, with loss. This makes the album as a whole even more appropriate to me because the drift is a quick one. Most of my favorite parts go by too fast. The intoxicating, heady bursts of dirty funk or stomping house are short, and then replaced by something else. While it's true that there's something to be had in that something else, there's always a sense of privation when the best parts fly by. The reasons for this sense of loss, and that coming from remembered memories, are probably different. But the feeling is similar enough.